Final Project and Course Reflections

In setting out to create this digital resource, I wanted to create a map that could expand the material on the internet about American Indian boarding schools. From my own research, the materials mostly consist of digitized primary sources, a limited amount of monographs and academic articles, scattered news articles, and other materials here or there. I came up with the idea to do this last semester while researching boarding schools for research seminar, and it has been exciting to see this come to fruition. There are still many additions I will add to this project, however, as I come to find more and more out about American Indian boarding schools. My hope is to continue to grow this project — as it is more than a simple class project — it is a topic I’m extremely passionate about.

To me, this map helps the history of American Indian boarding schools to become more accessible to not only those who are interested already, but also to others who stumble upon them. This thought was driven home during our conversations in class this last week on opening and expanding scholarly conversations. It is important to create digital resources that not only give historical context to the materials, but also to create digital resources that are accessible themselves. Many people are not familiar with searching an online archive, but would still want to be engaged with history and I believe that this map is a doorway for that.

Project poster:

In this course, it has really opened my eyes to all of the different digital resources at our fingertips. Digital history is an expansive field and is ever-changing. In my professional position, I work with digital content, but this class has helped me deep dive into understanding it and thinking deeper about it — especially from the perspective of the audience rather than just from my own. I think this course has really taught me how to be a better public historian — and has given me a lot of tools to better myself and my practice.

Digital Project Update: Mapping American Indian Federal Boarding Schools

As a refresher, I am creating an interactive map using ArcGIS StoryMaps that tracks the American Indian boarding schools implemented by the Bureau of Indian Affairs beginning in the 1870s. I am finalizing the points for each residential school with the dates it was in operation. In doing background research for this, some schools have contested dates of operation, which has made it slightly more difficult to gather this information. I’ve also added a button underneath the map linked to a Google form in case viewers want to reach out and add information or get into contact with me. Within the actual map, I am still figuring out the best way to optimize the plotted points with what will be easiest for the user to navigate.

Here is the link to the StoryMaps published page, Mapping American Indian Boarding Schools.

As I continue to work on this, I want to gather different resources for those viewing the map. For each point, there will be the years the school was in operation (as I stated), but will also link to relevant pages, like a museum page for the school or any information from the National Archives, for example. Some boarding schools have tons of resources available about them, but some other ones are barely acknowledged. This will prove difficult in finding relevant resources. However, that is why I am very adamant about including contact information. If someone is viewing the map and sees missing information, I think it’s important for them to offer this if they’re so inclined to get in contact with me in the future. Even after this class, this map is something I want to make sure is maintained.

I want this to be a resource that can actually be used and does not get lost in the depths of the internet. In order to publicize it, I am definitely going to reach out to the museum I worked at, the Heard Museum, as Professor Owens suggested in the comments of my previous blog post. I also will reach out to various places that work with the history and legacy of these schools, like the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.

My StoryMap right now is definitely a draft. To make it more digestible before the project is formally due, I am going to add more information to each point, and double check that I didn’t miss any federal boarding schools. Then I will go back in and insert links to the resources so when the viewer clicks on a point, all the relevant links show up with titles of what they are. I also want to include images if I can to make it more pleasing to the eye. From the project proposal until now, my goals remain the same. I want to streamline this information to make it easier for the public and historians to learn more about boarding schools making digital resources compiled and easier to find.

Mapping American Indian Federal Boarding Schools

For the digital project, I’m proposing that I create a Story Map using GIS software to create an interactive map of American Indian federal boarding schools. Most of my research has revolved around American Indian boarding schools. For those unfamiliar, the federal government created boarding schools in the late 1800s to send American Indian children to in order to assimilate them into white, Anglo-American society. These schools maintained many cruel practices, including militaristic practices, forbidding other languages besides English, and basically “renting” students to people in the community to do manual labor with little to no accountability on the institution’s part. They have largely shaped American Indian education and culture in the United States and the effects of them are still apparent in American Indian communities today.

I never formally learned about these in school, in high school or even college. The only reason I heard of federal American Indian boarding schools was when I began an internship at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona where I worked on an exhibit that centered around student experiences in them. Last semester in research seminar, I conducted research on the enforcement of Anglo-American gender roles used to assimilate students at the Phoenix Indian School and the Sherman Indian Institute between World War II and 1963.

Memorial Hall at the closed Phoenix Indian School. This building has been preserved since the school’s closure in 1991 and the land is now Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix, Arizona. Courtesy of Flickr user, C Hanchey.

When I was in the depths of researching boarding schools, it was difficult to find a specific place where I could learn more about them that wasn’t Wikipedia or a scholarly monograph. Even in the Wikipedia pages, it was difficult to find general information about when they were in operation, or any current digital resources to learn more. I found a map on the Carlisle Indian School website, but it was extremely difficult to use and offered little information. In embarking on this project, I hope to create an interactive map that is easy and clean to use. The names of schools will be mapped out in their respective locations, but will also include the years of operation, and further links to relevant digital resources to make them more accessible to scholars and the general public alike. For this resource, I’d also like to be able to make it collaborative in some way so if there is any information that I missed on the project it could be easily added, either through contacting me directly or a different process.

If anyone is interested in learning more about American Indian boarding schools, this is an excellent and informative exhibit titled, Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories. (I archived yearbook photos for it when I interned at this museum!)

Commercializing the American West: Tombstone versus Montezuma Castle in Online Reviews

The city of Tombstone, Arizona has been lauded as a tourist town with a Western history — one of the last standing remnants of the American Wild West. Of course, I have visited Tombstone on many occasions, usually to escape the brutal Phoenix heat of summer. It offers plenty of attractions for tourists including: gunfight shows, ghost tours, regular walking tours, underground mine tours, old-time photo studios, and more. While Tombstone has a rich history as a silver mining hub during the mid to late 1800s, its population has hovered around 150 people or less since the 1930s, leaving tourism the main focus of the town.

Courtesy of Jessica Spengler on Flickr

Almost 300 miles north of Tombstone, another popular attraction (and summer escape) is the Montezuma Castle National Monument in Camp Verde, Arizona. This structure was created by the Singua people between 1100 and 1425 AD. It is one of the best preserved cliff dwellings on the continent, and is a magical sight to see. The American Antiquities Act of 1906 declared it a national monument, seizing it for the federal government. As a site of the National Park Service, there are plenty of opportunities for grade school field trips and education about the plants, animals, and archaeological finds at Montezuma Castle.

Courtesy of user AP07 on Flickr

For the project, I am proposing that I would examine reviews for each site on Google Reviews and Yelp. With one site being marketed as a tourist attraction with fun and a little bit of history, and the other being owned and operated by the National Park Service, I want to explore the differences between the reviews of both of them. Tombstone has been heavily commercialized and visitors are expected to have an “experience” and to get lost in its spectacle. How would this compare to the reviews of a formal historical site? Would there be a large difference? What does the general audience for both take into account? I think examining these would answer some important questions about the commercialization of the Wild West in comparing a mostly white-settled town like Tombstone with a historic site that was created by indigenous people of Arizona over 600 hundred years ago.

Connecting our audience with the past: Wikipedia and Flickr


Wikipedia is a free, open-access, online encyclopedia. We all have used Wikipedia before, whether to read about the cast members of a Netflix show we recently binged, or to learn more about an obscure historical event — but how much thought have we put into the background of it and how it works?

As Roy Rosenzweig wrote in the article, “Can History Be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past” Wikipedia is constantly changing and adapting, while also running into some drawbacks, including the difficulty of historians collaborating on writing/editing entries. Rosenzweig states, “The lack of a single author or an overall editor means that Wikipedia sometimes gets things wrong in one place and right in another.” (128)

The first example I want to take a look at is a Wikipedia page. There are many different tabs that one could explore. The “Talk” tab opens to a page where the editors of a page can discuss improving the article page.

This page lists information and guidelines for the user. Another tab is the “Edit” tab, which takes you directly to the coding of the page, where you can edit and then submit to be reviewed. An important tab I’d like to focus on is the tab, “View history”

The tab “View history” details every change made to the Wikipedia article. The top of the page offers a key to help the user understand the changes that were made. For example, “m” equals a minor edit, which is visible on the edit that was made on January 30, 2021. This article is relatively active with the changes made to it, as already in 2021 there were edits to the page almost every day.

In digital history, Wikipedia can be an important resource, as long as we understand how to read articles effectively. Although written fifteen years ago, Rosenzweig’s article offers valuable insight on knowing when it is useful to use Wikipedia.


Flickr is a website that hosts images and videos uploaded by users. I created a free account, where you are able to write a bio, follow accounts, upload your own media, favorite images, and even create your own galleries showcasing media you come across.

Searching is relatively easy on this platform. To continue with my Watergate theme, I searched Richard Nixon. There are many ways to refine the search, and I left open the tab to refine search by license. This is important in a website like this, as copyright restrictions are necessary to understand and use in our practice of digital history. The U.S. Department of State even has a Flickr account that is regularly updated, as these images were taken and uploaded on February 5, 2021.

An important feature of Flickr is the Flickr Commons. According to the main page, “The key goal of The Commons is to share hidden treasures from the world’s public photography archives.” Flickr is utilizing its platform in collaboration with archives to help increase the accessibility of photographs. This is important, as it allows the public to not only view these images, but to interact and contribute knowledge to them as well.

I grew up going to The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois, and I was excited when I saw they were a “Participating Institution” while exploring the Flickr Commons. They have a plethora of images viewable by the public and the screenshot is open to view some of their albums.

This is an example of an album titled, “Early Field Museum (1919-1922)”.

As digital historians, it is important to know that these resources like Wikipedia and Flickr exist, and how to properly use them. I hope this overview is a good introduction to these not only as we have known them, but as valuable tools as we continue to learn and become professionals in the field. I’m looking forward to taking you through these in class next Wednesday.